I have always been a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern architecture that was way ahead of the times. People either loved his work or hated it…and he didn’t care. So long as the owners understood what he had built for them…and he was able to build…he was happy…well sort of…he didn’t look like he was a happy person, but he was definitely a genius. He sketched Fallingwater for owner Edgar Kaufmann in a few hours when Kaufmann started getting anxious about the plans.
Originally the Kaufmann’s (owners of Kaufmann’s Department store, now part of Macy’s) wanted to view the waterfall from the house. Fallingwater is built over the water. Frank Lloyd Wright, their famous architect wanted them to live the waterfall and to hear it all over the 5,330 square foot house with terraces making up almost half of the square feet.
He also installed a hatch apparatus so the Kaufmann’s could go down stairs to the river directly from the living room!
The house is most famous for its cantilevered design and that Bear Run flows beneath the structure.
Engineers of the day said it wouldn’t work…have you ever heard that before from an Engineer? But after it was built it graced the cover of Time Magazine and has received many awards since its opening in 1939. It took 3 years to build, during the great depression…an odd time to spend so much money.
Considering this was such a large house by the standards of the day, custom-built and designed in a modern cantilevered design by a famous architect…over a river…just how much do you think it cost…?
The amount was high for the 1930’s…
Take a guess…
How about…including $8,500 architect fees…all furnishings…both the main house and guest house…for a grand total of $155,000!
Can you believe it? Only $155,000! However, keep in mind the average price of a home for average families was $5,500 at the time.
Tours run about an hour, with several happening at once. They cover many of Wright’s ecological building philosophies…such as…huge windows to serve as nature’s changing art on the walls…cramped dark hallways and entries to contrast with the open feeling of the rooms…lack of clutter…not allowed in a Wright designed home…lots of outdoor spaces and circular elements to contrast with horizontal design of the rock walls, terraces and seating areas and unique, but not necessarily safe, fireplaces.
Make sure you have enough time to explore when you visit and wear walking shoes. There is a 1/4 mile walk to the house and back from the visitor’s center…and lots of stairs in the house, up to the guest house and to the lookout for the big photo. All of it is hilly terrain.
The house is not what I would call kid friendly…steep, stone stairs with no railings…low terrace edges, windows with no screens (the Kaufmann’s added them later)…rock and hard corners everywhere. For that matter I would probably hurt myself…
Photos are allowed outside after the tour…including the special lookout to get the famous published photo. However, they have let the trees grow and the view is crowded with forest vegetation and people out on the terraces during their tours.
There is a docent stationed at the lookout that will gladly take your photo perched on a rock in front of this famous structure.
If you are visiting Pittsburgh don’t miss this fascinating house…and also Kentuck Knob down the road if you have time. It has a sculpture garden and they allow weddings at the site.